I went into this movie relatively cold. All I knew about it was that it had an infamous rape scene (what is it with rape this month?). I wish I had known a little more going in... so I'll share what I know with you now. The movie plays in reverse (a la Memento) and details a night in Paris as Marcus (Vincent Cassel) goes on a manhunt for the guy who raped and brutally beat his girlfriend, Alex (Monica Bellucci).
Info #1: Apparently the whole script was only 3 pages long, and the majority of the dialogue was improvised. Every scene was filmed multiple times, each lasting anywhere between a few minutes and 20 minutes. In some scenes, this is really obvious. In others, it's pretty fascinating the dialogues they came up with.
Info #2: Each scene is basically a Long Take, which is very impressive. So not only do these actors have to make up their own dialogue, but they have to do it in these massive takes without screwing up. In fact, there's one scene where somebody asks Marcus what his name is and Vincent Cassel replies "Vincent." By this point, the Long Take had been going on at least 10+ minutes, so in order to avoid redoing everything, he plays it off like a joke and gives his character's name. But on the whole, the Long Take stuff is pretty cool.
Info #3: The first 30 minutes or so annoyed the crap out of me--but apparently it was meant to. The cameraman was like a guy with cerebral palsy during an earthquake (no offense to anyone with cerebral palsy). The camera literally never stopped spinning like in a sphere. Up down left right diagonal back forth... it was insane. And on top of that, almost everything is in shadow or red light, making it even harder to discern what's going on. However, the director did this in order to purposefully make his audience uncomfortable, upset, sick, etc. And it's also there to show Marcus' mental state. There's also a super low-pitched frequency (like what one would hear during an earthquake) that affects people by making them feel sick, too. So the director relished in the fact that about 200 people walked out of this film at Cannes in the first 30 minutes. However, I didn't think it was artsy or anything. I didn't think it worked all that well as a clever device. I just found it incredibly annoying.
Info #4: The infamous rape scene... maybe had I watched this film first this month, I'd react differently. But after all these other rape-involved films (some of which do it much more hardcore than this one), it probably didn't strike me as much as it meant to. What did make it harder to watch was the fact that it was basically the camera set on the ground and the rape happens in a single shot for 10+ minutes. In fact, the only thing the director told the two actors, besides how it needed to begin and end, was that they couldn't go over 20 minutes. Yeah. Otherwise, the only thing that boggled me was the fact some woman on the street told Monica Bellucci's character she'd be safer traveling in an underground tunnel by herself in the middle of the night rather than calling for a cab (and then she believed her). Yeah, not buying that.
Overall, the film wasn't as painful as both Netflix (2 stars) or the first 30 minutes would have me believe. Once the camera calms down a little bit and you can actually discern what the hell is going on, the movie gets more bearable. Granted, that's exactly when the rape happens, so it throws you off again. I probably enjoyed it more from a technical standpoint than by what the film was in and of itself. The long take business was pretty awesome and very well done (though apparently there were little cuts here and there to mix together multiple takes). It is a tough movie to get through, and I'll probably never watch it again. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions, though I'm not sure I liked being forcefully manipulated by the director like that. If you're gonna see it, do so for the aesthetic... but I really wouldn't bother due to the subject matter.